As the spectacle of a drama-filled FIFA World Cup culminates in the global spotlight with Sunday's final, another unpredictable knockout tournament will be taking centerstage here in the American soccer landscape.
The 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup resumes this week with four quarterfinal matchups, all of which will be played Wednesday (July 18). After two memorable road wins over fellow MLS clubs to begin their Open Cup run, the Fire's road to the semifinals will now go through Toyota Park and the lone USL side still remaining in the field, Louisville City FC. Ahead of Wednesday's showdown (7:30 PM, TICKETS), take a look back at the road to the quarterfinals and get to know the upcoming opposition.
How They Got Here
Entering the field in the Fourth Round, the Fire went on the road to Columbus Crew SC and went to extra time after reaching the end of 90 minutes level at 1-1. Nemanja Nikolic netted his second goal of the game in the extra session, but Columbus also scored to send the match to a decisive PK shootout. Over the course of a dramatic and record-setting shootout, Fire GK Richard Sánchez provided two pivotal saves and converted his own penalty attempt to help the Fire advance.
Two weeks later, the Fire traveled south for their Round-of-16 matchup with MLS front-runners Atlanta United FC. A well-worked goal finished off by Nemanja Nikolić stood up as the game's only goal, allowing the Fire to claim a 1-0 win and send a raucous, U.S. Open Cup-record crowd of 41,012 home from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in disappointment.
Opponent Profile: Louisville City FC
Changes at the Top
Last month, Louisville City FC lost the only head coach it has known when Irish international James O'Connor announced he would be leaving the team to accept the suddenly vacant head coaching position at Orlando City SC, where O'Connor both played and coached during the club's pre-MLS days in the USL. Louisville has yet to confirm a new head coach, with three players – George Davis IV, Paolo DelPiccolo and Luke Spencer – functioning as interim coaches. Of note, the winner of the Fire-Louisville City match will go head-to-head in the semifinals with the victor between Orlando City SC and the Philadelphia Union, setting up a potential reunion between O'Connor and his former club.
Despite being a new club, Louisville reached the Eastern Conference Finals twice in their first two seasons. But they didn't stop there, claiming the 2017 USL championship with their 1-0 win over Swope Park Rangers in the final of the USL Playoffs last November, which came on the heels of an 18-6-8 record in the regular season. The team currently sits third in their conference with an 8-4-5 record, following a weekend loss to Charleston.
Road to the Quarterfinals
Louisville entered in the U.S. Open Cup in the Second Round, cruising past PDL side Long Island Rough Riders, 5-0, and following that up with another clean sheet against fellow USL team Saint Louis FC 1-0. That earned them a date against the New England Revolution, where Louisville came from behind to claim a 3-2 "Cupset" and advance to the Round of 16. There, they got out to a 2-0 lead on future MLS competitors Nashville SC and held on for a 2-1 win, earning their first-ever trip to the Open Cup quarterfinals.
Return to Bridgeview
Wednesday will mark Louisville's second U.S. Open Cup visit to Toyota Park, with the first coming in their inaugural season of 2015. That Fourth-Round contest was a hard-fought affair, with Louisville coming close to a lead on multiple occasions before entering extra time scoreless after 90 minutes. With the game seemingly destined for penalty kicks, the Fire's Quincy Amarikwa deflected in a shot on net to secure a 1-0 win and a place for Chicago in the Open Cup Round of 16.
Now, after five straight road matches in U.S. Open Cup play dating to the 2016 semifinals, the Fire will be eager to resume their chase for the coveted silverware on their home turf at Toyota Park. With an impeccable all-time record of 28-1-2 in Open Cup matches played in the state of Illinois, the Fire will have their sights set on extending their tournament record for semifinal appearances to 13.